Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.
FORBIDDEN is not a novel for everyone. It deals with several hard-hitting issues and features one of the biggest taboos in society. There is extreme neglect as a mother slowly withdraws from her family, leaving her eldest children, Lochan and Maya, to act as parents to their younger siblings. The novel centers on Lochan and Maya’s relationship as it changes and evolves, going from siblings and best friends to two people hopelessly in love. This book is too too and features a squick level that will keep many readers away. Heck, it would have kept me away if I hadn’t seen The Bookish Brunette, a blogger I adore and trust, post a raving review and highlight why everyone should read FORBIDDEN despite the topics explored. I don’t think my review will be anywhere near as stunning as hers, so check it out.
While FORBIDDEN explores many hard, brutal topics, the most harrowing moment deals with none of these issues. It’s not something I ever expected to see in this novel, and I won’t spoil it for you here, but you’ll know it when you see it. Perhaps of all, this moment is what stayed with me long after the last page was turned. Despite the extreme topics, I would absolutely read another novel by Suzuma in a heartbeat. She has a way of combining words and characters in a raw, gripping fashion. Her writing is so sharp and intense that it is impossible not to be invested in Lochan and Maya’s lives and root for them despite the fact that they’re siblings. They know their relationship is fundamentally wrong, but when they try to avoid their feelings, they are destructive and accidentally inflict severe harm upon themselves.
Lochan and Maya have never had a proper childhood. Their father skipped out and found a new family when they were about 10/11 years old. Their mother is an alcoholic who spends her paychecks on clothing for herself and presents for her younger boyfriend, hoping to regain her youth and find a way out of her family. She is the most destructive element, the catalyst of so many things. When she’s in their lives, chaos ensues. She comes home less frequently as the novel progresses, until she’s never home at all and Lochan has to go to her boyfriend’s house to beg her for money to pay the bills. Lochan and Maya are left to be parents to their younger siblings; the youngest is only five years old.
Their family life has an especially devastating effect on Lochan. He is painfully shy and has extreme social anxiety. He can’t deal with other people. In school, he’s called a freak. He can’t even form words if a teacher calls on him in class, and will sometimes have massive panic attacks. He has no friends and can only talk to his family members. Even then, he can, at times, be stumbling or withdrawn. The only person he really trusts to “see” him is Maya, and even that can be a struggle. As for Maya, no one will ever live up to the perfection of her brother. He’s her best friend, the person she loves most in the world, though she doesn’t realize just how much until after going out with a boy she thought she liked.
FORBIDDEN is slow-moving, forming relationships in a way that feels natural and building up the reader’s level of tolerance so they understand why things develop the way they do. The novel was originally published in the UK, which I wondered about upon seeing several character names I wasn’t familiar with, names like Lochan and Walla and Tiffin. They reminded me of a time when names such as Phillipa and Hermione were new to me. I always love seeing what names are popular in other countries. I also like the fact that the US publisher, Simon Pulse, kept in a lot of British slang instead of revising it for an overseas audience. I may not have known a word 100% of the time, but could gather its general meaning from the surrounding contest clues.
In the end, only you can decide whether or not this is a novel you’ll be able to read. I didn’t think I ever would, but found myself immersed in Lochan and Maya’s plight. The characters stick with me even now, days after finishing the novel.
This cover uses the same stock as the UK version of THE DARK AND HOLLOW PLACES by Carrie Ryan. I have to admit that I prefer the way it's used in Ryan's book the first. At the same time, I love the way the cover is RED. For passion, for love, for betrayal, for blood. There are so many connotations with the color red that suit this novel. I also love the way the heart is sharp and prickly like a thorn. The small, delicate cursive of the typography goes against the grittiness of that heart and bold red, saying that there's also something delicate about this novel.
[FORBIDDEN launches May 28, 2011 at bookstores everyone. E-ARC courtesty of Simon and Schuster]
[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]
This entry is part of Logan E. Turner and The Unread Reader's All Male Review Challenge (2011 Edition). See how I've done so far here.]